Perceptions Are a Leader's RealityHave you ever caught yourself saying, “that’s not reality, that’s just their perception”? This is a common trap leaders often fall into when receiving personal feedback or reviewing organizational survey data.

We judge ourselves by our intentions. Everyone else assesses our leadership effectiveness by our behavior. That’s a highly subjective evaluation based on what others see us doing. No one can see into a leader’s heart or hear his or her thoughts (which for some is a very good thing). So the perceptions of a leader’s direct reports, peers, manager, and others is all there is.

In our Extraordinary Leader development system we use this slide to emphasize this critical concept:

In a purely rational and logical world everyone would empirically weigh out a leader’s key traits and behaviors to arrive at a fair and balanced overall assessment of effectiveness. But in our emotional and subjective world one or two traits stand out. If they’re highly positive they will inflate perceptions of all the other traits and the leader’s overall effectiveness is rated much higher. If a very negative trait or two stand out the other traits shrink and the leader’s overall effectiveness is diminished.

The first key question for every leader is what’s your Trait F? The second critical question is how do you know how others perceive you?

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